I never get tired of telling her how beautiful she is.
I won’t lie – sometimes I look at her; I look at her and the images of the past pain come rushing up. Sometimes it gets so violent, I have to close my eyes and hold back the hurt. It’s almost physical at times. Like holding back vomit.
I am so afraid. I feel like; I feel like – how do I know history won’t repeat itself?
How do I know things will work out with her?
I guess that’s why I kept her waiting for so long – why I kept resisting her advances. I was – am afraid.
These are the thoughts I am battling with as I take her hand and help her down from the cab that took us to my eating spot – but I still do not forget to tell her, how beautiful I think she is.
She averts her eyes; imagine a thirty-something year old woman acting shy!
But she smiles and says ‘thank you’.
I feel proud as I walk beside her, beside myself with some emotion rising like the evening tide – except this particular tide is in my chest and is threatening to choke me. My fears are still so present – but I look at her; and I know I want nothing else. Not now.
“Oga ——————, how na? Long time! You no even – ”
I hear her voice – but I am caught up in staring at my companion’s lips and general face. When I do turn to salute the woman, I am surprised.
She is looking at us; at my companion, with such joy in her eyes I am taken aback. You know; it is the kind of look an expectant mother has in her eyes when she sees her child happy. The kind of look that says “Papilo, I knew you would make us proud!”
Or something like that.
Anyways, she looks at my companion with something really close to pride and says, “Is this her?”
I’m not sure what ‘her’ means – but I nod. “Yes, it is.”
She rushes forward – and then halts. “I want to hug you, but my clothes have oil and smoke – ”
And then my companion steals my heart forever – by simply hugging this madam.
Oil, smoke and all.
I know you’ve been hurt;
I know you’ve done your share too; ehen? So what?
You know what?
Ikoko ni mi ti nba gbo ohun e; soro!
Tell me how you feel; tell me what you want,
Tell what your fears are; tell me what sucks
No; I’m not talking sex – I can wait, no rush
Afi ti o oba fe duro den GONGO ASO!
I know I snore; can we call that music?
I’m not what you’re used to; learn me.
I’m in school too; you 101 is the topic
It’s hard; no doubt – but I mean to pass
Ma a we; ma a yan kankan dandan!
Make space for me; in your life
Make space for me.
I know it’s hard; after all no be hard drive,
Sugbon; mo ni isuru walai!
I’m impatient – but I can learn that
I want you happy; for that I bend back
Farther back; than I ever thought I could
Omo – ma sunkun mo; ile ti mo!
I mean I know.
Fears. What if it happens again?
What if it doesn’t? What if it works?
Ololufe, ma je a ja.
Mi o fe mo ibi to tin nbo;
Ibo lon lo?
She mo le mu e lowo
She mo le mu e dani?
Je ka ma lo sose…
I have to be honest. I’m one of the people that think mums go a certain school to learn the art of slapping.
Or maybe it’s a woman thing.
But it seems as though mothers have it on lock the most. I mean, they so understand the art – they know what effect to create by hitting you with a particular part of their hand. They know how to shock you, hurt you, jerk tears from your eyes and so on.
The Art Of Slapping.
The first time; (as far as I remember) I ever got intimate with the flat of a woman’s hand was via my mum. It was also the day I learnt that the human mind also receives static – just like the TV used to; back in the day before the multicolored lines appeared; before the National Anthem was sung.
Anyways, that fateful night she’d sent me to go get something for her from a neighbor’s store. I hurried out of the house because the store belonged to one of my friend’s mum and there was always some gist to catch. On arriving the store, I met my friend and a couple of girls.
Now, it’s important you understand; I was still in my teens and something was really worrying me back then. I think it was around the time a senior in school had pointed out to me that the thing on females’ heads was not fire or flames; it was just hair – just like I had. So I was raring to practice my newfound confidence on every available female.
You can imagine my delight when I spotted the two ‘victims’.
Without much ado I began to flow and postulate and…I was sha yarning a lot of what I realize now must have been dust; but neither I nor the girls noticed.
Something else I forgot to notice?
I was so carried away with what I was saying and the looks on the girls’ faces that – I had entirely forgotten someone was waiting for me at home.
The first inclination of trouble I had was an eerie feeling that someone was standing behind me – and I guess that was what made the whole thing worse.
I turned – and therefore what should have been a slap; something designed for just my ear ended up hitting my ear AND eye.
I think I tuned in to the satellite that gave NTA feeds that night. NOTE: It was night, and there was no power.
But all that made no difference. I was receiving static loud and clear.
Somehow, I staggered from that store and made it home without bumping into anyone or anything. How I did that, till now I haven’t figured out.
But this is my point. That slap set me straight.
And that; the ability to slap the sh*t out of any living thing, was the least of my mum’s talents. She definitely slapped a lot of nonsense out of me – not to talk of the other things; the caning, flogging…
She saved my life.
She died two years ago (August 27th) – a day to her birthday. And in spite of the pain that hasn’t diminished even the slightest – it’s as though she jumps out from behind the shadows of every naughty kid being chastised by a loving mother – I still have so many reasons to be thankful she was my mum. The above was just one of many.
I just wanted to wish her a Happy Birthday; and maybe take her out to Chicken Republic like I did, on her last birthday alive – and feed her ice cream while the other customers looked offended; thinking I was there with my sugar mummy…
Happy Birthday Momma!
He walked into the house – walking by Rachel, who was hanging a wet rag on the railings beside the door.
“Have you eaten?” he asked gruffly, not meeting her eye.
“I have, broda. Thank you. Your food – ”
“I don’t want anything.” He stood by the door – and then walked on into the main bedroom. “Good night.”
He lay on the bed and tried to sleep – or at least think about why he was so angry.
There seemed to be no recourse there – so he turned his mind towards the puzzle presented in Temi’s kind gesture to him some minutes ago.
She had sent him money – at least; according to what she said.
Why was she suddenly being nice to him – nice but firm?
He turned away from that, and thought about Agnes; worrying particularly why he would have thought he was in love with her.
No. He had actually been in love with her. How come?
How could he have fallen in love with someone so…
Picking up his phone, he switched it off and curled in a fetal position.
He wanted to sleep – but it was long in coming.
I want to write about two people.
But before I do that, I want to make some things clear.
- I do not suddenly have a fascination with death. I outgrew it a long time ago. It just so happens that death; being a recurring theme on this journey of life visited closely recently.
- The two people I’m writing about died a while apart from each other – and I would have written about the first guy before now but – it just didn’t feel right. And if I talk more about one than the other, it’s only because I know one more than the other.
- Only last week it was Robin Williams. Oh well…
Tolu Oke was a writer.
I think I met him on NS, I don’t exactly remember how we started talking but I remember him to be a honest critic, he would say whatever he felt about your work. And because he was a sound young man, he usually knew he was talking about.
He took a shine to my writing, and would always say what he felt and why he felt that way. He also introduced me to someone who I have the privilege of ‘mentoring’ (when she has time), but it wasn’t until his demise I realized he was my link with her.
That was Tolu. Never glory-hunting.
We used to talk – personal stuff every now and then – and then we promised to meet and hang out sometime. But he was busy, and I was busy, and the time never seemed right…
And now he’s dead.
He died in an auto accident.
The second person died on Saturday after a sickle cell crisis. Yes, he was SS, but if anything, that made him more special.
He is an advertising legend; I have no doubts that he would have become one of the owners of a multi-billion naira international ad agency – had he so desired. As it was, he won several international awards and distinctions, studied in several international ad schools, arguably the single most awarded individual in Nigeria’s advertising history (not fact though) and his campaigns are the stuff of legend.
I’m sure you would have seen his work – one at least.
There was a series of Noddles ads that went viral – or at least one – this past Ramaddan – something in the lines of ‘Because you’re fasting we won’t show you a bowl of noddles with a chicken’ or something like that.
Ah. Here It Is:
Yup. That was him.
He was a driven, focused man who was always a pleasure to work with. If you spent time with him, he in his element, and you were not inspired, you had to be dead. He was the kind of guy you either liked or hated. It was virtually impossible to be indifferent to him. You know those kind of guys?
And the best, most fascinating part of this young man?
He was just thirty years old.
I was talking with someone – and it dawned on me that Debola (that’s his name) lived the way he did – probably because of his condition – probably because he was aware that he was living on borrowed time. No offense whatsoever meant.
And then, as I continued to think, it dawned on me again that – so what exactly is the difference between me and Debola? Just because he was SS and I am not, was I guaranteed to live longer?
Like it or not, we are all living on borrowed time! There’s absolutely no guarantee that we would make it to tomorrow – we just hope and pray and believe in whatever deity it is we allow guide and direct our piety.
It’s funny how nobody exactly teaches us to do wrong – but we have to learn to do right. Someone told me ‘it’s always the abusive part of a language that is easiest to learn’. I think so too.
So we quickly learn to steal, to lie, to cheat, to kill – we learn to use and manipulate and play other people. And as we get further and further into living for ourselves…
We forget why we came here. Which is, to leave this world better than we met it.
Debola died at thirty – and I know several men waaaay older than he was, who are still alive and don’t have a third of his achievements. And I’m not talking about the creative work or the ads or the awards. I’m talking about the laughs he shared. I’m talking about the inspiration he was and continues to be. I’m talking about the fact that he followed his heart, his passion – he followed it with everything that was him.
There would be several people younger than him too, who have also done great stuff. But I don’t know any. None that I can speak of in the same breath as Debola. In spite of his circumstances, Debola lived life under his own terms. He did not ask life for a quarter – and life; who really does not give a fuck anyways, did not give him one. And he lived it up.
Bottom line; whatever we believe, whatever we want to do, whatever we want to do – we better get up on it and get doing. No time o.
No time. Debola. Tolu. Thank you so much for being what you guys are.
You’re challenges. Motivation. Inspiration. Encouragement. I won’t stop.
God willing. I won’t. Thank you for sharing your gifts with the world. With us. With me.
Leaves of the one mango tree still standing in the compound trusted softly in the wind, edges catching reflections of the done street light mounted at the top of the NEPA pole a few houses away. A solitary Okada sped down the road with its passenger, a buxom woman who looked like she was trying to stay on top of a horse. Conversation sounds came from neighboring houses, mixing with the smells of different local dishes being made in different houses. The barber at the end of the road was playing some Olamide loudly, giving the different hues of humanity ambience.
It was a rare, beautiful evening.
But as it usually is with such things, not everyone experiencing it was enjoying it.
Chris was one such a person.
From his vantage point on his landlord’s balcony, he could see everything perfectly. See; but wasn’t a part of.
His left hand itched and he scratched at it steadily, but it was more like distracted reflex. His mind was trying to sort through the events of the past nineteen hours.
He avoided thoughts of the LaCasera bottle and the smashed picture frame, thinking instead of his mandatory leave and what had led up to it. Working with Agnes was becoming more of a burden the more he thought about it, and he wondered if it wouldn’t be better if he just transferred elsewhere – or just quit altogether.
His nerves were slowly being stretched – and he didn’t want to confront the thought of what would or could happen if they snapped. If he snapped.
His phone started to ring.
Not exactly in the mood for conversation but wanting to know who it was, he picked the call, refusing to acknowledge the faint hope that it was Agnes calling.
The cultured tones that bathed his ear wasn’t hers.
“Hey Chris,” a female greeted.
He was surprised. “Temi?”
She laughed throatily. “Or its someone wearing me. How are you?”
“The I’m fine or the truth?” He asked, feeling the icy hands of loneliness reaching out to hug him.
There was silence from the other end of the phone but he could hear her breathing. “Temi?” He asked.
“Are you going to tell me how you are?” She asked, voice still the same controlled calm. Chris sighed.
“Honestly, I’ve been better. I don’t know what’s wrong – maybe I just need some solitude…”
Why don’t you travel? I hear Tinapa’s great around this time of the year.”
“Tinapa? On which salary? It’s me o, Chris. Not Christ or Christian Bale. Just…”
“So GT doesn’t send you alerts?”
His pulse jumped from 60 to 180 in two seconds. “What?”
She chuckled slowly. “Check your account balance – and then call me tomorrow. Or don’t. Night, Chris.”
Chris stood on his landlord’s balcony, even more confused than he’d been minutes before.
What the hell?
There’s this place I like to eat whenever I’m at the office. Or close. It’s a small buka – so small you can travel the length of it in three strides. But you would be fascinated to know that, during rush hour, people wait hours to buy food there.
Of course, there’s speculation about the source of such customer dedication.
Some say it’s juju, that the proprietor; usually a woman, washes her privates into the first set of cookings for the day. A couple of people have actually talked about seeing hair that never came from a human head in their food.
Well. I never saw ‘strange hair’, and I know what female ‘privates’ taste like.
I guess people don’t understand the significance of a neat environment to a buka. They don’t understand that goodwill is one of the most important things in a business – that knowing almost all your customers by name is a huge plus.
And that good and affordable cooking makes all the sense in Nigeria.
Most of the crowd there buy to take away because they understand the constraints of space. A few like me, however, like to sit and enjoy the different smells wafting from the set of coolers and pots placed by the entrance. My seat is usually reserved.
Whenever she saw me coming, she would hail me like “Oga ______ (you already know my name), how na?”
I’d hail her back, just as heartily; “Madam, I dey o. How business?”
She’d answer, “We thank God o. Which one today, usual or special?”
‘usual’ is pounded yam and vegetable soup with two pieces of goat meat and one fish. ‘Special’ is whatever catches my fancy at that moment. Rice, plantain, beans, turkey – whatever, as long as she sold it.
That is usually my one meal of the day, so I like to make a huge fat deal of it. And I never misunderstand the woman’s kindness for more than what it is – someone who genuinely appreciates her customers.
But I never expected the turn of events when I took my new girl…sorry; woman visiting…